Stephen Karlson (shkarlson) wrote in 50bookchallenge,
Stephen Karlson

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Book Review No. 18 is Michael Kazin's American Dreamers: How the Left Changed a Nation.  It's by an academician, and it's well-documented.  It's also readable, and, although sympathetic to the aspirations of the Left, not tendentious.  It's in the concluding passages, however, that the main message of the book, whether as a charge to traditional leftists, or as food for thought for people who err on the side of emergent order, appears.  That's after we've explored abolition, and Class Struggle, and Vanguardism, and Civil Rights, and The Counterculture.  At page 275, "The left was certainly more successful when it sought to expand personal liberty than when it struggled to advance the collective might of workers and the poor."  Collective might is an illusion.  Discuss.

Turn to page 276.

A world of freebooting capitalism has delivered neither material abundance nor social harmony to most of the world's people.  Failed states, religious wars, environmental disasters, clashes between immigrants and the native-born are common features of current history, as they were in earlier times.  But the perception that there is no alternative to chronic crisis except to somehow muddle through exacerbates the problem.

On the other hand, to hope for a vanguard to lead the masses, or to apply pressure from below to leaders, hasn't done so well.

(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)

Tags: academic, history, politics

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